The universe of cyber is expanding with limitless boundaries. Every individual and every organization are connected online more than ever before. In recent years, the Covid pandemic and the preventive environment of social-distancing also provided a new world of life to human beings to discover the real strength of online connectivity, and the emerging concept of remote working, distance-learning, e-commerce, etc.
Without an iota of doubt, the online world is providing a great deal of opportunity to a man in fulfilling his personal and professional affairs. Nonetheless, there are challenges growing side by side with new and unimaginable ways, while on the other hand, addressing these issues is as crucial as a life of one individual or the sustainability of one’s business regardless of its value and demographic. Cybercrime and cyberattacks are frequently common in today’s world which makes headlines every day in the media. These attacks are exposing everyone vulnerable who is being connected with the internet. Life without the internet is a crazy idea but there is no other solution than strict preventive measures or equipping yourself strongly to defy these attacks.
According to Check Point Research, cyberattacks are increasing worldwide with 38% more cyberattacks per week on corporate networks in 2022, compared to 2021. The global volume of cyberattacks reached an all-time high in the last quarter with an average of 1,168 weekly attacks per organization. The top three most attacked industries in 2022 were Education/ Research, Government, and Healthcare
The think tank warns that the maturity of AI technology, such as CHATGPT, can accelerate the number of cyberattacks in 2023 and onwards.
In Pakistan too, we have witnessed that the threat of cyberattacks is growing gradually with the increasing penetration of the internet and its advanced application in businesses. In the last few years, the national press reported various incidents of cyberattacks which ultimately cost the operations and revenues of the corporations. Not only major commercial banks in the private and public sectors were affected but various organizations including power sector utility companies, as well as the national revenue department and the ministry, were also victims of cyberattacks, unfortunately. This resulted in monetary losses and operational disorganization in the corporation.
Cybersecurity is essential in similar to the security of a country, its people, and its interests. In layman’s language, cybersecurity is like hiring a well-trained guard for your home and workplace and installing an advanced alarm and smart surveillance system. The World Economic Forum’s Global Cybersecurity Outlook 2023 report shows that the cybersecurity skills gap is a real threat to the world. The report shows that sectors like electricity, banking and finance, and hospitals are most at risk because they face the largest critical gaps in access to skilled cybersecurity professionals. The world needs 3.4 million cybersecurity experts to support today’s global economy, but the industry is struggling to fill that gap, the report said. The forum rightly said that the biggest threat to cybersecurity is the unavailability of its professionals worldwide.
In Pakistan, the situation is also very critical when it comes to having the right pool of talent in the field of cybersecurity. Presently, the situation is very grim because trained professionals are very few as far as the local demand is concerned. The trained and experienced professionals are either overworked or underpaid, and a section of them are being approached by companies operating in foreign countries. In 2021, the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication pointed out that the absence of a mechanism for ensuring the quantity and quality of these skills and resources is a threat to the cyber security of the country.
In this scenario, the government and private sectors at different levels should set out an aggressive strategy to train professionals in cyber guards — specialists, consultants, experts — as many as possible to meet the demand of the country.
First and foremost, IT professionals of the relevant department should be equipped with advanced skills in cybersecurity through organizing a series of bootcamps and workshops at least in federal and provincial capitals. These bootcamps and workshops continue to arrange refresher and update sessions for the professionals.
On a medium-term basis, three to six months courses should be designed for aspiring professionals and degrees from 1-year Diploma program to bachelor and MS to Ph.D. should be launched in the universities, on a long-term basis.
The government and private sector should encourage professionals through funding training and bootcamps because this investment will prevent them from huge losses in the future. These entities should also devise a policy to enlighten our growing generation about the importance of this field, which is considered a part of the 5th generation warfare, and essential for the country as a strategic matter of national security.
–The writer is an expert on